The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Weigher of Souls revolves around the scientific experiments of Dr. Howard Bruce James, a brilliant, solitary general surgeon. His experiments extend the research of two imaginary men, Baron von Reichenbach and Dr. Crooks. Von Reichenbach tested people who could, in total darkness, perceive a luminous fluid around men, animals, and flowers, something that Reichenbach called “life energy.” Crooks weighed the corpses of animals and observed that, after a regular interval of time, the weight of the animals dropped a measurable amount that was consistent for each species. In humans, he noted the weight as seventeen hundredths of a milligram. He concluded that this must be the weight of the human soul.

James has verified these facts through his own experiments and is continuing the work as the novella opens. He concludes that three “evaporations” occur in humans. He postulates that what is given off by the dead bodies is “vital energy.” Using a comparison to light, which has mass and can be compressed, he tries to collect and compress these “souls.” He speculates further that the “vital energy” of each individual contains the unique personality of the dead “soul.” By capturing this “soul” he can thus ensure the preservation of an individual human “life.” In a way, he has thus discovered a way to ensure the immortality of the human personality.

At the suggestion of the narrator, James subjects his corpses...

(The entire section is 509 words.)